Science

Why play is so important for children's development

As an instigator of the Global Month of Play, National Geographic has teamed up with three partners to create new opportunities for children to play and to highlight the worrying decline in play opportunities. Tuesday, 6 November 2018

By Jonathan Manning

National Geographic is at the heart of the first Global Month of Play, a campaign focused on raising awareness of the importance of play in the lives of children.

The campaign says play is the “rocket fuel that children need to boost their skills, their passions and their readiness for the future.”

It aims to draw attention to the startling decline in play in children’s lives, describing the erosion of play opportunities as “a silent emergency”, caused by changes to society, communities and lives. 

Safety fears of letting children play outside, allied to busier lifestyles, are undermining the chances for children to play, with research finding that 64% of parents think their children have fewer opportunities to play than they did as a child.

In the UK, children living in deprived areas are nine times less likely than those living in affluent areas to have access to green space and places to play, according to a report by the House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee.

The Global Month of Play is the brainchild of the Real Play Coalition, a four-way partnership between National Geographic, IKEA, The LEGO Foundation, and Unilever’s Persil and Omo.

The month will involve a worldwide series of activities to engage children in more than 116 countries. The ambitious idea expects to touch the lives of 3 million children in 26,000 classrooms, with the hope of prompting teachers and parents to take action and create greater opportunities for play.

“A month is not enough - which is why we will continue to look for ways to bring play to all,” said the Real Play Coalition in an official statement. “But it is an important first step on a road to more playful childhoods, and children equipped for tomorrow’s world.”

The coalition, launched at the World Economic Forum in Davos at the start of this year, said play is vital for a child’s development.

 “It is through play that children develop core skills such as creativity, empathy and self-control, making it fundamental to their future success and the success of future society as a result,” said the Real Play Coalition.

As the official storytelling and media partner of the Real Play Coalition, National Geographic is creating a series of videos called ‘Play Made Me This Way’. The first features National Geographic Explorer Aaron Huey and his son Hawkeye, the youngest photographer ever to have an image published in National Geographic, at the age of just four years old.

To find out more, visit the Real Play Coalition.

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